LaMichael James announces early entry into 2012 NFL Draft

University of Oregon running back LaMichael James has filed paperwork with the National Football League with intentions of entering the 2012 NFL Draft, the athletic department announced Friday afternoon. @@

James held a brief press conference at the Casanova Center with a small group of reporters this afternoon. He said the decision was “probably the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to face in my life.” @@

The redshirt junior will go down in the history books as the greatest running back ever to put on an Oregon uniform, and the 5-foot-9, 195-pound James said having won the Rose Bowl was the perfect way to end his illustrious career.

What was the deciding factor?

“Almost having my degree,” James said. “And achieving everything I think I could possibly achieve at this level. I mean, I could win the Heisman or the BCS (next year), but that’s just not likely. I felt like I’ll be leaving with a bang, and that was an enjoyable moment.”

The 22-year-old two-time first-team all-conference choice (2010, 2011) and Oregon’s first three-time 1,000-yard rusher shared Most Outstanding Player team honors in 2009 and 2010 while eclipsing the majority of the school’s rushing and scoring records. He also became the first player in conference history to run for more than 1,500 yards in each of three seasons.

Among the Oregon records now owned by James are most points scored in a single season (144, 2010) and career (348, 2009-11); most touchdowns — season (24, 2010), career (58, 2009-11); most rushing attempts – season (294, 2010); most rushing yards – game (288 at Arizona, Sept. 24, 2011), season (1,805, 2011), career (5,082, 2009-11); most all-purpose yards – game (363 at Arizona, Sept. 24, 2011), career (5,869, 2009-11); most 100-yard rushing games – season (9, 2009, 2010), career (26, 2009-11); and most 200-yard rushing games – season (4, 2011), career (7, 2009-11).

Oregon coach Chip Kelly said in a press release earlier this afternoon that he is “100 percent behind LaMichael” with this decision.

“He is a very special person and certainly will be remembered as one of the very best players ever to wear a uniform at the University of Oregon,” Kelly said in the press release. “It has been a pleasure to coach him for the four seasons he has been here and is comforting to know that he will obtain his degree this spring. I could not have asked anymore from him and I am confident he will be a success at the next level.”

James becomes the eighth Oregon player to forego a final season of eligibility for early entry into the NFL Draft, as well as the school’s third running back to do so, joining Onterrio Smith (2003) and Jonathan Stewart (2008).

The Texarkana, Texas, native said the draft advisory board projected him as a third-round pick, but he could be looking at the second round depending on his performance at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine held Feb. 22-28 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

James, who remains a handful of credits away from graduating, said he plans to take a term off to train for the combine and possibly take some online classes before returning to Oregon in the spring. Once he’s drafted, James said he doesn’t have a preference for where he winds up as long as he’s playing.

As for the state of the Oregon backfield in 2012, James believes he’s left it in good hands.

“It’s gonna be phenomenal,” James said. “I don’t know who will be back there or who’s gonna start or anything like that. But whoever’s back there — I think if Coach Kelly’s back there he’ll do great too — so I don’t think it really matters who’s back there.”


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